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Man left with 45% burns had to wait two hours for ambulance

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
·3-min read
Chris Williams-Ellis was left with terrible burns after a fire broke out as he worked on a car. (Wales News)
Chris Williams-Ellis was left with terrible burns after a fire broke out as he worked on a car. (Wales News)

An ambulance service has apologised after a man who suffered 45% burns was made to wait two hours for help.

Chris Williams-Ellis was working on a car in a mechanic pit at his family home in Corwen, Denbighshire, when it caught fire.

His partner Catherine Stewart managed to pull him away but it took various people to make several calls before an ambulance arrived, despite there being two stations within five miles of the home.

He remains in a coma in intensive care and faces a “long time” in hospital.

Chris Williams-Ellis had to wait two hours for an ambulance. (Media Wales)
Chris Williams-Ellis had to wait two hours for an ambulance. (Wales News)

The Welsh Ambulance Service said the delay was “unacceptable”, apologised for the lengthy wait and pledged to conclude a full investigation.

Williams-Ellis, a self-employed classic-car restorer, was badly burned in the fire, and at one stage was given a 50/50 chance of surviving.

He was taken to Whiston Hospital, Merseyside, and underwent skin grafts but was later transferred to Wythenshawe Hospital in Greater Manchester after developing pneumonia.

There, he was placed on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine to take over his heart and lung functions.

The aftermath of the fire at Williams-Ellis's barn. (Media Wales)
The aftermath of the fire at Williams-Ellis's barn. (Wales News)

The fire destroyed the barn Williams-Ellis had been working in, as well as vehicles and tools.

Stewart believes the fire in the property’s barn started after “something unknown” caused a spark.

“Chris has been fighting hard and he has now been removed from this life support, but (is) still in a coma in intensive care and just recently underwent skin grafts to repair his worst burns on his arms and hands,” she said.

“He will be in hospital for a long time to receive ongoing treatment and rehabilitation.”

Williams-Ellis’s mother Philomene said neighbours also had to phone the emergency services but her son was helped “only when someone got in touch with the air ambulance, who managed to get there in 20 minutes”.

She said: “His skin was hanging off, he couldn’t breathe and had no pain relief. No one knew what was the best thing to do, and he was there in agony for all those hours.”

The fire left Chris Williams-Ellis with 45% burns. (Media Wales)
The fire left Chris Williams-Ellis with 45% burns. (Wales News)

She added: “They did call Catherine back two minutes after the first call and told her to put him in tepid water for his burns. But the fire turned up and had to turn the mains off so he was in that cold water for ages.

“I want justice for my son and to make sure that this never happens again.”

Jason Killens, chief executive at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “We know this will be a profoundly upsetting time for the family of Mr Williams-Ellis, and the thoughts of everyone at the ambulance service are with them.

“Given the very serious nature of what happened, an investigation to determine the exact sequence of events and the cause of the unacceptable delay – for which we are very sorry – is being prioritised and concluded as swiftly as possible.

“We are an organisation committed to learning and improvement, and have offered to meet the Williams-Ellis family to take them through our findings and any lessons identified in full.

“Our thoughts remain with Mr Williams-Ellis and his family at this deeply distressing time.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family.

Watch: Here’s the latest on the government’s job support schemes